International students: talking isn’t arriving


There’s not much point allowing them into the country if classrooms aren’t open

International education advocates talk-up how students could soon arrive (and start paying fees). But advocacy will not overcome practical problems.

arrivals – state and federal ministers understand the importance of international education and all sorts of options are on the agenda. But before students can arrive there are two essential approvals.

* states agreeing to accept international arrivals, with the Commonwealth’s chief medical officer concurring

* the Commonwealth either opening the national border or premiers setting terms for student exemptions. With state leaders arguing about interstate travel, this seems unlikely anytime soon.

campuses open – universities want students back on campus but whereabouts vary. Some universities are opening libraries and labs and planning some second semester in-person classes, all under existing social distancing rules. But no institution is planning face to face lectures and tutorials for all students – which means international students here would largely learn in the same way they do from home now, – on-line.  This may not strike all an especially good deal.

what about welcomes –  even if they are allowed in and educated in-person, many students will need jobs to support study. Unless the economy snaps-back sharpish, part-time work is not going to be easily found. And what sort of community experience will international students have?

So, if not soon, when? – National cabinet guidelines for lifting restrictions say international students may be able to return once the nation reaches the third stage of opening-up-, anticipated in July. The emphasis is on “may.”

As Monash VC Margaret Gardener told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry earlier in the week, “it is difficult to see international students entering the country before 2021.

Talking- up early arrivals in the hope that optimism can make it so does no good. What international education needs now is cool headed pragmatic-problem solving that puts students at the centre of the decision-making process.

Dirk Mulder is Campus Morning Mail’s international education correspondent


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